The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing
Cities are what keep the global economic machine humming.
Over 80% of the world’s economic output is derived from activities in cities – and more specifically, it’s estimated that 60% of GDP growth occurs in just the top 600 urban centers.
Given the above, it’s fair to say that the destiny of humankind is directly linked to what happens in major cities. Further, how urbanization plays out over time could end up having a significant ripple effect on the economy, and we should pay close attention to such trends.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases eight different ways that urban demographics are evolving.
Below we will summarize the changes, along with potential impacts on the economy:
1. A Higher Percentage of Urban Dwellers
Between 1950 and 2018, we went from 30% to 55% of the world’s population living in cities. This has been driven largely by today’s middle and high income economies in places like North America, South America, Europe, and Japan.
The next stage of urbanization will see us move to 68% – more than two-thirds of the world’s population – living in these urban conglomerations. It will be driven by countries in developing markets, creating a potent investing megatrend along the way.
2. The Countries Driving Growth
It’s estimated that three countries will combine for 35% of all urban population growth.
|Rank||Country||Growth in Urban Population (2018-2050)||% of Global Urban Growth|
|World||860 million people||35%|
|#1||India||416 million people||17%|
|#2||China||255 million people||10%|
|#3||Nigeria||189 million people||8%|
In total, there will be 2.5 billion more urban dwellers in 2050 than there are today. Many of these people will experience rising incomes in cities, increasing the global middle class to an unprecedented size.
3. Peaking Rural Populations
On the flipside, it appears the world’s rural population has nearly flatlined, with anticipation that it will peak in absolute terms in the next couple of years. Rural populations have been slowly growing since 1950 until this point.
4. The Rise of Megacities
There will be 43 megacities by the year 2050, which is more than quadruple the amount that existed back in 1950.
The changing geography of the world’s megacities will be one of the major forces that shapes the future of the global economy and accompanying investment trends.
5. New Population Centers
By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s urban population will live in Asia or Africa. Meanwhile, North America and Europe will combine for closer to 15% of that total.
The role of de-urbanization is often downplayed or forgot about when discussing urban demographics, but it is an interesting issue.
Factors such as falling fertility rates, economic contraction, and natural disasters are actually shrinking the size of some cities. In fact, McKinsey predicts that 17% of cities in developed regions will see a drop in population between 2015-2025.
7. Disparities in Urban Growth
The rate for urban population growth is actually trending down across all types of economies – however, these rates come from very different starting points.
High income countries are currently averaging growth of less than 1% per year, and this will continue to decline to below 0.5% per year by 2050. Over the same time period, low income nations will go from 4% to 3% per year.
8. Changes in Average Age
The age distributions in large cities within developed nations will begin to skew older, something we’ve shown previously when looking at the median age of every continent.
The biggest impact here may be felt on dependency ratios in the workforce. With a smaller pipeline of new workforce entrants and a burgeoning population of seniors, this changing ratio is one of the most significant stories impacting urban demographics.
Ranked: The Autonomous Vehicle Readiness of 20 Countries
This interactive visual shows the countries best prepared for the shift to autonomous vehicles, as well as the associated societal and economic impacts.
For the past decade, manufacturers and governments all over the world have been preparing for the adoption of self-driving cars—with the promise of transformative economic development.
As autonomous vehicles become more of a looming certainty, what will be the wider impacts of this monumental transition?
Which Countries are Ready?
Today’s interactive visual from Aquinov Mathappan ranks countries on their preparedness to adopt self-driving cars, while also exploring the range of challenges they will face in achieving complete automation.
The Five Levels of Automation
The graphic above uses the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, which details the five levels of automation. Level 0 vehicles place the responsibility for all menial tasks with the driver, including steering, braking, and acceleration. In contrast, level 5 vehicles demand nothing of the driver and can operate entirely without their presence.
Today, most cars sit between levels 1 and 3, typically with few or limited automated functions. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as certain Tesla models and Google’s Waymo. Both feature a full range of self-driving capabilities—enabling the car to steer, accelerate and brake on behalf of the driver.
The Journey to Personal Driving Freedom
There are three main challenges that come with achieving a fully-automated level 5 status:
- Data Storage
Effectively storing data and translating it into actionable insights is difficult when 4TB of raw data is generated every day—the equivalent of the data generated by 3,000 internet users in 24 hours.
- Data Transportation
Autonomous vehicles need to communicate with each other and transport data with the use of consistently high-speed internet, highlighting the need for large-scale adoption of 5G.
- Verifying Deep Neural Networks
The safety of these vehicles will be dictated by their ability to distinguish between a vehicle and a person, but they currently rely on algorithms which are not yet fully understood.
Which Countries are Leading the Charge?
The 20 countries were selected for the report based on economic size, and their automation progress was ranked using four key metrics: technology and innovation, infrastructure, policy and legislation, and consumer acceptance.
The United States leads the way on technology and innovation, with 163 company headquarters, and more than 50% of cities currently preparing their streets for self-driving vehicles. The Netherlands and Singapore rank in the top three for infrastructure, legislation, and consumer acceptance. Singapore is currently testing a fleet of autonomous buses created by Volvo, which will join the existing public transit fleet in 2022.
India, Mexico, and Russia lag behind on all fronts—despite enthusiasm for self-driving cars, these countries require legislative changes and improvements in the existing quality of roads. Mexico also lacks industrial activity and clear regulations around autonomous vehicles, but close proximity to the U.S. has already garnered interest from companies like Intel for manufacturing autonomous vehicles south of the border.
How Autonomous Vehicles Impact the Economy
Once successfully adopted, autonomous vehicles will save the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion per year, which will come from a variety of sources including:
- $563 billion: Reduction in accidents
- $422 billion: Productivity gains
- $158 billion: Decline in fuel costs
- $138 billion: Fuel savings from congestion avoidance
- $11 billion: Improved traffic flow and reduction of energy use
Transportation will be safer, potentially reducing the number of accidents over time. Insurance companies are already rolling out usage-based insurance policies (UBIs), which charge customers based on how many miles they drive and how safe their driving habits are.
Long distance traveling in autonomous vehicles provides a painless alternative to train and air travel. The vehicles are designed for comfort, making it possible to sleep overnight easily—which could also impact the hotel industry significantly.
- Real Estate
An increase in effortless travel could lead to increased urban sprawl, as people prioritize the convenience of proximity to city centers less and less.
With the adoption of autonomous vehicles projected to reduce private car ownership in the U.S. to 43% by 2030, it’s disrupting many other industries in the process.
Taking Advantage of the Infrastructure Boom: The Case for Taxable Municipal Bonds
Taxable municipal bonds will help finance the $4 trillion needed for U.S. infrastructure repairs. Here’s a case for why they are an interesting investment.
The Case for Taxable Municipal Bonds for Investors
If you’re a homeowner, there are probably a few things you’ve been neglecting to do. Perhaps the kitchen needs upgrading, or the roof needs replacing. We tend to procrastinate on these improvements due to large renovation costs, until it hits a point where we can’t ignore them anymore. This is the state that U.S. infrastructure has reached—on a national scale.
Today’s infographic from New York Life Investments highlights the level of disrepair in U.S. infrastructure. It also explores why taxable municipal bonds, which will finance the required infrastructure upgrades, provide such an interesting investment opportunity.
Falling Apart at the Seams
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE) regularly assesses the nation’s infrastructure—things like bridges, airports, and drinking water—and scores it in a ‘report card’. After decades of neglect, the U.S. only scored a D+ in 2017.
The ASCE estimates that $4 trillion is needed to bring infrastructure up to a B grade, $1.3 trillion of which will be provided by state and local governments.
The urgent needs for increased investment in America’s infrastructure continue to grow and our nation’s economic vitality and quality of life are at stake.
— Ed Mortimer, U.S. Chamber Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. municipal bonds will be the primary funding source for this massive financing need. These bonds are quite popular with individual U.S. investors, as the interest income from most municipal bonds is not subject to federal income tax.
However, the U.S. tax code limits the volume of non-taxable bonds issued, and the purposes for issuing them. As a result, many local and state governments have been turning to taxable municipal bonds to finance their infrastructure projects.
The Muni Opportunity
Taxable municipal bonds are a potentially attractive investment for many reasons.
1. Competitive Historical Yield and Strong Returns
In the last decade, a lagging global economy led to historically low interest rates—many sovereign (national) bonds fell into negative territory. Taxable municipal bonds provided an alternative source of yield potential, outpacing the yields of comparable treasury bonds in some cases.
Not only that, but in the post-crisis era, taxable municipal bonds have averaged a return of 6.9% per year, beating the 4.6% performance on U.S. corporate investment-grade bonds, a staple in most institutional portfolios.
2. High-Quality, Stable Credit Ratings
Most municipal bonds are high quality with low default rates, making them attractive to risk-conscious investors.
|U.S. Municipals||Global Corporates|
|Rating Spread||Over 76% rated A+ or better||Only about 10% are AA rated|
|Tiny portion below investment grade||Nearly half are below investment grade|
|Default Rate||0.81% for those rated BAA by S&P||0.84% for those rated AAA by S&P|
Historically, municipal bond ratings have also been far more stable than that of global corporates.
3. Inefficient pricing
The municipal bond market is highly fragmented, and most issues are too small to be included in a market index.
This market fragmentation, combined with limited sell-side research and many buy-and-hold investors, often leads to inefficient pricing. Active investors have the potential to generate higher returns by applying their credit research and trading skills.
4. Low Correlations
Correlation measures the degree to which two securities move in relation to each other. In general, taxable municipal bonds have a low correlation to other fixed-income sectors. This means they help provide portfolio diversification and reduce volatility.
5. Longer durations
Since taxable municipal bonds fund long-term capital projects, they are usually financed with longer maturing bonds. Institutional investors welcome this source of long-duration assets, as they can match them up with their long-dated obligations.
A Compelling Portfolio Addition
Taxable municipal bonds have many positive qualities that make them a strong contender for investment. When added to a diversified fixed-income portfolio, they may also improve the risk/return profile.
As the U.S. begins to revitalize its infrastructure, taxable municipal bonds present a strong—and often overlooked—opportunity for investors.
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